Feb 7, 2018

Axios Future

By Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh

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1 big thing: The coming generational conflict ...

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty images

The U.S. is headed for a potentially dangerous new social rift, this time between millennials and baby boomers, each wrestling for diminishing jobs and shrinking government assistance, according to a new paper released today by Bain.

Quick take: In the next decade or so, automation and demographics will become a new dimension to the economic and social pressures already roiling the U.S. and societies around the world, the study says.

  • This new conflict will pit millennial workers displaced by machines against boomers living on Social Security and Medicare.
"Who votes, who wins, and who goes to the polls become a highly politicized issue potentially," says Karen Harris, managing director of Bain's Macro Trends Group.

Bain paints the following picture of the years up to around 2030:

  • The U.S. population is aging fast, and many older workers are staying on the job longer.
  • With the labor force shrinking and needed skills hard to find, companies will rapidly automate.
  • 20%–25% of current jobs will be wiped out, adding up to some 40 million unemployed workers. Many of these will be in the least-advanced positions, and often will be millennials.

This will set up generational conflicts, Bain says. Chiefly, it will pit millennials against boomers for jobs and for differing government assistance:

  • Millennials will require job retraining and perhaps a basic income to compensate for low or no wages.
  • Older Americans will demand the Social Security and health care that are bedrocks of current society.
  • This will all be set against the backdrop of a government strapped by enormous deficits racked up since the start of the century.

Read the whole post.

2. ... and Germany's current answer

Members of the IG Metall union on strike. Photo: Lino Mirgeler / AFP / Getty Images

Experts say a new labor agreement granting German metals and electrical workers the right to a 28-hour week marks a generational shift in how people balance their professional and outside lives.

What's happening: Yesterday's accord means 900,000 members of the IG Metall industrial union can take lower pay for working 28 hours a week, and later return to full time at 35 hours if they so choose. They can do anything with their extra time, including work at something else, hang out with their spouse, or care for elderly parents.

Why it matters: "IG Metall’s agreements tend to be seen as benchmarks for the whole of German industry, and it is now expected to be rolled out in other sectors," writes the FTs Guy Chazan.

But but but: Do not look for such concessions to reach the U.S. any time soon, suggests Sharon Block, who runs the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. "It shows a growing divide between what is going on here and the rest of the industrialized world," she tells Axios.

Read the whole story.

3. AI, fire and the wheel

Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Some researchers and business leaders are putting artificial intelligence — in its current and aspirational forms — on the same pedestal of human invention and innovation as fire, electricity and the light bulb, Axios Science editor Alison Snyder writes.

Yes, but: Other experts say it will be a long time before we know whether AI will ever merit such lofty imagery.

Key quotes:

"It could be. If AI really leads to the birth of intelligences greater than humans', it will arguably be the most important event in the history of life on Earth since, well, humans. But that's a very big if, of course. In the meantime, AI's impact is far smaller than electricity or fire's (and in fact, you could say that AI is part of electricity's impact, since it wouldn't exist without it)."
— Pedro Domingos, professor of computer science, University of Washington
If this were the Stone Age, where we’re at with AI is “we know what wheels are but not how to build them. ... But wheels are a whole lot easier to build than AI."
— Gary Marcus, psychology professor, New York University

Consider this: Fire arguably made humanity. Taming it more than a million years ago brought our ancestors safety from predators and allowed us to leave the trees.

  • When early humans learned to use it to cook food, it provided more calories that “jump started a brain that was getting larger already,” says Jeremy DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College.
  • (And making fire when it doesn't happen incidentally is a completely different animal altogether, he says. That probably didn't happen until 30,000 years ago.)
  • Like toolmaking before it and farming after, reining in fire was a cultural innovation that spawned a biological change to our species.
  • “Without the control of fire, I don’t think there is a Homo sapiens,” DeSilva says.

Read Alison's whole post.

4. The hottest new skills

Crypto-currency specialists — from developers to technical writers — have the hottest new job in the U.S., according to Upwork, the freelance job listing site (see the right column in the chart below).

Expand chart
Data: Upwork Skills Index; Table: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Quick take: Every quarter, Upwork measures newly demanded skills, and that makes its index exceedingly volatile. As you see, there is no overlap between the top five paid skills last quarter and those a year-and-a-half ago. But one thread running through the quarterly index is the fevers in our midst — Bitcoin, mobile apps, AI and visualization.

In addition to crypto-currency skills, the most-demanded new skills last quarter were for:

  • Amazon DynamoDB, a database program that functions with Amazon's cloud service.
  • React Native, which can make mobile apps that work on both iPhones and Androids.
  • Robotics generally.
  • Google's Go, a programming language popular with developers.

Read the whole post.

5. Worthy of your time

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

AI will supercharge surveillance (The Verge's James Vincent)

What Amazon does to poor cities (Atlantic's Alana Semuels)

How crypto-currencies help to evade sanctions (Axios)

If robots have their way, the populist revolt has only begun (NYT's Eduardo Porter)

Japan's manufacturing model is cracking (WSJ's Alastair Gale and Sean McLain)

6. 1 fun thing: human humor

The circuit board of Musk's Tesla Roadster in space. Screenshot: Musk's Instagram

Firing a super-heavy rocket into space is a serious thing. But entrepreneur Elon Musk spiced up yesterday's much-hailed launch of his Falcon Heavy with some personal humor. The most glaring was its cargo — his personal Tesla Roadster, which is headed toward Mars and from there onto an elliptical pathway around the Sun, writes Axios' Erin Ross.

  • Less noticed was a circuit board within the car, which contained the message above.

Sourced: Why people are in a tizzy.

Bryan Walsh